Bagpipers of "Change" — interview with fantasy-folk band Irdorath
The musicians who played Tsoy’s "Peremen / Change" on bagpipes at the very first march and performed dozens of concerts in the courtyards were fired from their jobs. We talked with Irdorath about the protests and the future, about things that help in difficult times, and why they did not leave Belarus.
FIRST MARCH AND CONCERTS IN THE COURTYARD
Vladimir: — We went to the first march with a clear understanding that they could break our instruments, break us, imprison. We were still under the impression after August 9-11.
Nadezhda: — We were terrified, but we decided that we would do it anyway, and it would be beautiful. Flowers, red ribbons were tied on bagpipe bass drones, we were smartly dressed, joined by many brave friends. It was just an impulse, as if we were the flagships that bring hope, confidence, energy and fighting spirit.
These are extraordinary people, the whole country is extraordinary.
And what about us? Are we ordinary or what?
We want to be extraordinary too.
V: — We came prepared: if Nadia was taken, I knew where to call, if I was the one to go, Nadia knew.
N: — The neighbors had the key to feed the cat.
V: — Up until the last moment we weren't sure: I wanted to perform, but two of us was too little. And then the third piper called me — Dima from the folk band “Yavaryna”, and said that they were also planning on going. Quite by accident our friend guitarist, came to us for a screwdriver, and we tried to play right away at home. On the way there we met one more drummer, another one, four more. The video then showed that there were many more people - about 10 musicians.
N: — We walked a lot, the pedometer showed 20 thousand steps, and then the crowd simply carried us to the Lenin monument on Independence Square. I see this gray wall approaching me, all covered in posters, and I am like "Whoa-a-a-aa". We played “Peremen” there one last time and couldn’t even walk from fatigue. We bowed goodbye, crawled to the nearest lawn, and just sat down on the ground.
V: — After we left for a cafe to eat, someone sitting next to us said that the punishers were going after the musicians, they were already a block away.
N: — The feeling of freedom ended around the time when we dashed in the dark to get home.
V: — After this very march, we received lots of invitations to play in the courtyards, three or four invites a day.
N: — At the very first concert we had to walk 50 meters to the car, and there was a patrol car 45 meters away from us. We put on black jackets, tried to disguise ourselves, but the giant drums that we were dragging ... We walked by and grew cold.
V: — We had a grand tour of Minsk - five performances in two days. And, probably, we were extremely lucky, because everything was great, well organized, very uplifting emotionally. Yet again now we have 3-4 proposals a day. Our music is our main instrument in this struggle. If you use it, then do it to the maximum. And if you sit at home, you won’t get into the situation.
N: — And we are being inspired. We see every little feat that others do. These are extraordinary people, the whole country is extraordinary. And what about us? Are we ordinary or what? We want to be extraordinary too.
V: — We worked in the center of supplementary education "Victoria". Somehow the video with our "Peremen" performance went viral, they sent it to us from Australia, Japan, in the States they showed it on the BBC. Naturally, our bosses saw it as well. Summoned us for a “conversation”.
N: — The main message was: they do not want additional attention, because everyone will be fired, everything will fall apart, as we stick out too much. I said that this is exactly what we use to attract attention. Because the world doesn’t want to hear the word “violence”, but the girls in white who stand up against violence are interesting, pensioners with flowers against violence are interesting, the pipers playing “Peremen” are interesting. We went out with our bagpipes yet again during the March of the People's Ultimatum on October 25th, the same week we played five yard concerts.When we were playing the last one my phone rang: "When you were just playing — it was one thing, when you were playing Tsoy’s "Peremen" — this is a whole different situation, and when you played "Peremen / Change" in the Square of Change ... This was the last warning, bad news is coming!" ... A couple of days later we were asked to resign or else we would be fired with a violation under an article. We were squeezed out of the work community where we worked for 8 years.
V: — We originally came there as a glee club "Irdorath". For us it was like a rehearsal point and a creative workshop, and for them we were simply good employees. They truly had a cool team of teachers. We did joint projects, shared classrooms and halls.
N: — And then all this shitty stuff began, when if you express your civic position, they first conduct explanatory conversations with you, and then throw you out. Many people sit quietly, so nothing would happen to them. Initially, they said that they wanted to stay out of politics, because they are still engaged with children. But the repressive measures against us — is that outside of politics?
N: — To be completely honest, we thought that someday we would move to Germany. Just because we knew: there is no chance at all for Belarus to become anything even close to it. I'm talking about the confidence that even if you do something wrong, everything will be fine in the end. Here everything can be taken away from you at any moment. But when the people rebelled and showed their will, we began to believe that everything could change.
Most have learned to live either outside the system,
or somewhere near it, thereby making it clear that the system does not work,
and it is fully possible to do without it.
V: — The number of our concerts in Europe was constantly growing. This year we had already chosen where we would go, the season was completely booked. In 2020, everything was suddenly canceled. And there was no desire to go there in order to escape from Belarus.
N: — Previously, we were deeply oppressed by the so-called “stability”, which was nothing more than soviet stagnation. Many people are trying to shake it off, but if everyone leaves, then who is left there to shake? When such massive processes are taking place in our homeland, where people are desperately fighting this particular stagnation, after all the violence, violation of human rights — it is clearly not the right time to be in comfortable conditions outside the country.
V: — The point is that young people - our generation has nothing to do with this soviet residue. Most have learned to live either outside the system, or somewhere near it, thereby making it clear that the system does not work, and it is fully possible to do without it. This is the freedom we already have. We are used to making decisions for ourselves.
N: — To put it shortly, we love Belarus. Last year we travelled 40 thousand kilometers by bus with concerts all over Europe - the length of the equator. It's cool everywhere, but when we come back here, we walk past the unpretentious Komarovka market, past the pigeons, grannies — we understand that here we are as relaxed as we ever can be.
SIMPLE THINGS THAT HELP
N: — "Horizon" for Sony Playstation helps. Household chores help. Our cat is cool, she is called “Plotva” (“Dace”). Our European fans write a lot of words of support, often short phrases: "Please, tell me, are you okay?" We are like “Yeah”, they are like “Thank you”. This is very supportive. But we have practically abandoned social networks, because it's difficult for me to open Instagram. Pumped lips here, half-naked breasts there, "here, look, I'm eating an avocado". And I am just sitting in a country of overall total injustice, where violence escalates each day. My soul hurts, it's hard for me to get to my own posts because I have to go through the “avocado”. Many succeed, I do not. And what to post, are we to write about our pain?
But it is ugly to turn away from reality
V: — I really miss a red button or a switch to turn everything off. But you can't run away from yourself. Play music, go to the forest, burn a fire — this might help.
N: — In general, our work is abstract and has never been social. It was a runaway from the gray reality into the world of Slavic fantasy, medieval legends, folk songs. But it is ugly to turn away from reality now. We have songs “I was. I am. I will be” and “Wings” — both of them are strongly correlated with what is happening now. We are in a strange situation. What we did was a departure from reality, but now we are as immersed in it as possible, and we understand how important it is to stay in it. How can I publish a song "Rusalka / Mermaid", "Vaukalak / Werewolf" now?
V: — I think that our parents will have a chance to live in a different country on this land. They no longer live in the past, with some kind of slogans and belief that everything is fine.
N: — When we win, I think the whole country will drain the stock of champagne. I also think that a new holiday will appear when people will go out on marches and gather in courtyards. We will repeat the "Peremen / Change" march — with the same atmosphere, because it was a festive atmosphere out there. But there will be a different context.
Alena Varanets, for TuzinFM